Pakistan unveiled it’s updated political map on 4th August officially incorporating Gilgit-Baltistan (till Karakoram pass), Sir Creek, Ex-princely states of Manavadar and Junagarh and parts of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) including Ladakh. The move has been lauded as a historic moment expressing Pakistan’s fervent commitment and principle stance on Kashmir issue.
Pakistan’s new political map follows Indian unilateral geographical revision
India triggered such unilateral geographical alterations and revision of political maps in the conflicts prone region. As on August 5, 2019, India altered the status of occupied J&K through abrogation of Indian constitution’s articles 370 & 35A and by bifurcating disputed state into two union territories of Ladakh and J&K. Later, India also incorporated Pakistan held areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan while releasing their updated political map on October 31, 2019.
With the new map, India wanted to assert it’s rhetorical territorial claims against Pakistan and pre-empt any mediation by US President Donald Trump on Kashmir. It also wanted to test Chinese patience by incorporating areas across the Line of Actual Contact (LAC). Further, it also formally grabbed Nepalese territories around Kalapani river extended to them during the 1962 Sino-Indian war for troops’ forward movement as a friendly gesture.
Pakistan rejected the Indian cross border claims being in sheer violation to numerous bilateral agreements and UN resolutions, terming them legally incorrect, untenable and void. They were also vehemently rejected by China and Nepal as their respective territories of Aksai Chin and Kalapani river were included in the updated map.
Modi led BJP looked to isolate Pakistan
With the Modi led BJP at central government since 2014, Indian state initiated an ambitious and crafty ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ to prioritise and improving ties with immediate neighbours. However, with excessive leverage under the policy, Indian hegemonic designs got exposed. It was mainly conceived to keep smaller neighbours under Indian influence; restricting their bilateral relations with other regional powers mainly China and to isolate Pakistan in the region. Under the garb of this policy, India also started playing a manipulative and direct role in eco-political spheres of neighbouring countries including cross border aggressions.
Later on, Nepal also released their updated map on May 21 this year reasserting their historic claims since the 1816 Sugauli Treaty over Kalapani river region in reprisal to Indian claims. Initially while refuting Indian new map alignments, Nepal sought for a peaceful resolution through negotiations but got a cold shoulder. However, the issue resurfaced on May 8, when the Indian Defence Minister inaugurated a newly constructed metalled road connecting India’s Uttarakhand state with Manasarovar lake in Tibetan autonomous region through disputed Lipulekh pass. Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, sensing the urgency of the issue, domestic political pressure and Indian dismal attitude, got a new map approved from national parliament incorporating more than 300 square kilometres of mountainous areas including Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani.
China to follow suit in consolidating Kashmir claim
After India, Nepal and Pakistan, probably China may also follow the suit and consolidate its claim over recently captured Indian territories along the LAC.
Left with no space for any meaningful dialogue by Modi led Indian government, Pakistan has demonstrated a strong geopolitical message by releasing a new map. It reflects a forward and aggressive policy on Kashmir to counter Indian rhetoric negating UN resolutions and bilateral commitments. However, keeping some areas undefined, Pakistan probably intends to leave some space for any future settlement. This bold step will not only keep the region a flashpoint for domestic politics but will also internationalise it warranting peaceful solution or multilateral interference in case of any Indian misadventure. Similar aggressive posture towards Sir Creek, Siachen and Junagarh will keep augmenting core issue of Kashmir.
Furthermore, the timings of releasing new map are also important as, since the annexation of IOJK, Imran Khan-led government has been widely criticised for lack of tangible policy options to counter Indian belligerence. This significant policy decision may play a vital role to regain domestic confidence. Further, the recent spats of Sino-Indian military face-off over LAC may have some bearing on the decision.
New political map highlighting Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir
Mostly fiddling with smaller neighbours, India baffled against legit Chinese border presence at multiple points across LAC. Enduring border issues with three nations at the same time, India seems entangled between widening military inadequacies and Modi led shallow aggression.
Although political maps define geographical lines between nations and their areas, It also represents a calculated political statement about its territorial sovereignty and resources. Further, they demonstrate national socio-political aspirations that affect public behaviour and possible state’s decisions. With the issuance of the new political map highlighting Kashmir, Pakistan has stated a significant political statement which will have far-reaching geostrategic repercussions even beyond the region.
The writer studied Conflict, Security and Development at the University of Sussex (UK) through Chevening award. He writes on conflicts, SDGs, governance and social issues in his personal capacity. Twitter: @AltafSario. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.